Bundesliga Season Preview: Bayern Munich poised to continue league reign

Bayern's Sadio Mane, front center, lifts the trophy as he and his teammates celebrate winning the German Supercup 2022 soccer match between German soccer cup winner RB Leipzig and German Bundesliga soccer champion FC Bayern Munich in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Michael Sohn/AP)

All eyes will be on Bayern Munich when the 2022-23 Bundesliga League season begins this week, with fans and pundits alike anxious to see if they can build upon their decade of dominance in the German league. 

Bayern begins defence of its title on the road on Friday against reigning UEFA Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt. 

Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland, two of the league’s high-profile goal scorers, have left the country for new challenges abroad. But many of the league top prospects have remained in Germany, including 22-year-old French forward Christopher Nkunku, who re-signed with RB Leipzig after being named the Bundesliga’s player of the season for 2021-22. 

Here are five storylines to watch during the upcoming German top-flight campaign.

Bayern Munich still the team to beat 

Can Bayern Munich win an 11th German league title in a row? That’s the predominant question surrounding the Bavarian giants, who already laid down a bit of a marker by winning its first trophy of the season last weekend when it trumped RB Leipzig in the German Supercup. 

It’s incredible to think that a team that lost Robert Lewandowski in the off-season (to FC Barcelona) could actually be considered stronger than it was last season. But the departure of the prolific Polish forward was somewhat mitigated by the addition of Sadio Mane via a transfer from Liverpool, where the Senegalese star scored 120 goals in all competitions over six seasons. The Bundesliga’s top defence from last season (just 37 goals against) was also bolstered with the addition of 23-year-old Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, who is considered one of the best centre backs in the world.  

With these two marquee additions, and the core of last season's championship team still in place (minus Lewandowski), it’s difficult to envision how anybody will stop Bayern from adding another Bundesliga crown to its already crowded trophy cabinet. 

Alphonso Davies is fit and fully healthy 

Staying with Bayern Munich, Canadian fullback/winger Alphonso Davies is raring to go for the reigning German champions after missing most of the second half of last season with myocarditis, a mild heart condition. Davies, a 21-year-old native of Edmonton, returned to action in early April, but ended the season without scoring a single goal, the first time he’s been completely shut out in his four campaigns with Bayern. Now, he’s fully fit and has had the benefit of a full pre-season going into the new campaign.  

As such, the team’s expectation of the youngster is that he will rediscover the top form he displayed in 2019-20 when he scored three goals and tallied five assists, playing a key role in Bayern’s treble-winning season. With Canada set to compete in the World Cup in November, Davies will be keen to hit the ground running in Bundesliga and build upon Bayern's success, before travelling to Qatar. 

Borussia Dortmund moves on without Haaland  

One of the world’s top stickers no longer calls the Bundesliga home, as Manchester City paid Erling Haaland’s $62 million US release clause to pry him away from Borussia Dortmund. The 22-year-old Norwegian scored 85 goals in all competitions for Dortmund over the last two and a half seasons, including 22 goals last season to finish as the league’s third top scorer, making this is a big loss for Die Schwarzgelben (The Black and Yellows). 

Sebastien Haller was signed away from Ajax after he scored 34 goals for th Dtuch club last season – including 11 in the UEFA Champions League – as a replacement for Haaland. But the Ivorian has since been ruled out for an uncertain period of time after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. 

On the positive side, a Dortmund defence that coughed up 52 goals last year has been fortified with the additions of German national team centre backs Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Suele from Freiburg and Bayern Munich. Defensive midfielder Salih Ozcan (signed from Cologne) should also provide the team some much-needed stability in the middle of the park. 

Eintracht Frankfurt looks to conquer Germany 

A win over Glasgow Rangers in last season’s UEFA Europa League final secured Eintracht Frankfurt its first piece of European silverware since winning the UEFA Cup in 1980. 

Now Die Adler (The Eagles) will try to make a serious challenge on the domestic front and win a German league title, something it hasn’t done since 1959, five years before the Bundesliga was founded. That may be asking too much of Frankfurt, though. As wonderful as their Europa League run was, they only managed to finish 11th in the Bundesliga in 2021-22. 

Still, there’s every reason to believe they can climb up the table this year, thanks to the addition of 2014 World Cup winner Mario Gotze from PSV Eindhoven. The club also retained Kevin Trapp and Filip Kostic, two key players from the club’s Europa League campaign. 

Player to keep an eye on: Florian Wirtz 

Florian Wirtz enjoyed a breakout season at Bayer Leverkusen in 2021-22, scoring 10 goals in 31 games across all competitions. If not for tearing his ACL last March and missing the rest of the season, the 19-year-old midfield sensation could have racked up more goals. 

Rather than move abroad or go to one of Germany’s top clubs, the youngster remained loyal to Bayer Leverkusen by signing a contract extension that ties him to the club until 2027. It will be interesting to see if Wirtz can pick up where he left off before the injury and help Leverkusen improve upon its third-place finish from last season. 

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